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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday granted bail to an accused in an alleged multi-crore cattle smuggling racket operating on the Indo-Bangladesh border in collusion with officials of Border Security Force (BSF) and customs.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Dinesh Maheshwari allowed the appeal against the Calcutta high court order by which it had dismissed a bail plea of Mohd Enamul Haque, alleged to be the kingpin of cattle smuggling racket.
The bench said, “Having due regard to the nature of allegations, the offence involved and the maximum sentence, the continued detention of the appellant who has suffered custody of over a year and two months is not warranted. In the circumstances, we order and direct that the appellant (Haque) shall be released on bail subject to such terms and conditions as may be opposed by the special judge CBI at Asansol.”
Additional solicitor general Aman Lekhi, appearing for CBI, opposed the bail plea and supported the judgement of the high court saying that the prior involvement of Haque in a case at Kochi, would indicate that he is habituated to committing similar offences arising out of the smuggling of cattle across the porous Indo-Bangladesh border.
“There are serious allegations against him of having exploited the conditions at the border and therefore indicate national security threat, though the appellant was permitted to travel abroad in terms of the conditions, which are imposed by the competent court at Thiruvananthapuram by granting bail, the appellant evaded the lookout circular, which was issued against him by entering through land frontier through West Bengal,” he said.
Lekhi added that the investigation is still pending involving the complicity of BSF officials and it would be inappropriate to grant bail to him.
He added that the high court has for justifiable reason declined to grant bail on the ground of parity due to the fact the appellant was the main perpetrator on whose behest the conspiracy was hatched and the bribe was paid.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Haque, submitted that he was in custody since November 6, 2020, and the submission of the charge sheet and supplementary charge sheet after investigation renders the accused in custody unnecessarily.
He submits that all the other accused save and except for the appellant has been enlarged on bail and bail has also been granted to the commandant of the BSF, who is alleged to have accepted the bribe.
He added that all the offences of which Haque is charged are of the maximum sentence of seven years and there is a wider issue involved on the CBI jurisdiction to investigate the offences upon the withdrawal of consent by the state of West Bengal.
The bench said, “Having heard the rival submissions, we are of the considered opinion that the continued detention of the appellant in custody is not warranted in the facts of the present case.”
It noted that Haque has already been granted default bail by the special judge CBI at Kochi in May 2018.
“In the regular case out of which the present appeal arises, from the denial of bail to the applicant, the appellant was arrested and is in custody since November 6, 2020, The charge sheet has been submitted on February 6, 2021, and supplementary charge sheet on February 23, 2021,” it noted.
Noting the facts of the case, the bench said that on January 31, 2018, the CBI has registered a case against him in Kochi and the allegations against him were that the commandant of 83 battalion of Border Security Force (BSF) in Roshanbagh, in Murshidabad, West Bengal had accepted illegal gratification for rendering favour to alleged smugglers of cattle, on the Indo-Bangladesh border which had resulted in the seizure of Rs 45.30 lakh in currency notes, when the commandant disembarked in Alleppey railway station in Kerala.
It noted that on March 4, 2018, Haque was arrested in connection with the case registered in Kochi from Kolkata and was produced before the court in Thiruvananthapuram on March 7, 2018.
Though the appellant was denied bail on March 21, 2018, by the special judge CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram, he was granted default bail on May 7, 2018 , the bench said and added that in the meantime, on April 6, 2018, the CBI registered a preliminary enquiry (PE) against another commandant of 36 battalion of the BSF in which Haque was again named.
The allegation in the fresh case was that cattle were sent from India to Bangladesh in large numbers by payment of illegal gratification to BSF personnel. It has been alleged that between December 2015 and April 2017, there was the seizure of cattle but immediately thereafter, auctions were held and traders including the petitioner or his nominees procured them at a lower price by paying bribes to BSF and custom officials , the bench noted.
It further said that allegation was also made that an amount of Rs 12.80 crore representing the payment of a bribe to the commandant of the 36th battalion of the BSF came to be deposited in a joint account.
On September 21, 2020, a fresh case was registered against Haque under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the IPC, while in the proceedings arising in the case at Kochi; he was permitted to travel to UAE and thereafter to other countries by various orders of the court.